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Keywords:

  • acidity;
  • carbon;
  • moorland;
  • nitrogen;
  • phosphorus;
  • pine;
  • pinewoods;
  • Scotland;
  • soils

Abstract

Despite considerable published literature on the above-ground ecology of the pinewoods of Scotland, little research has considered the way in which pinewood soils differ from those under other vegetation types. Soil properties were compared between ancient, semi-natural Scots pine forest and moorland on three soil types in the Abernethy Forest Reserve in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. Soil morphology differed considerably between the vegetation types on each soil type, principally in the thickness of organic layers. Forest soils had thicker organic layers and this was particularly true of the F horizon. Forest soils were slightly less acid than equivalent moorland soils and had accumulated significantly more carbon. Forest soils in this environment therefore have the capacity to sequester larger amounts of carbon than moorland, and therefore represent a significant potential carbon sink. The quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus was also consistently larger in the organic layers under pine forest and since little difference existed in these properties in the mineral horizons, it was concluded that this accumulation was real and represented a net addition to the tree-soil system.